ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska – Four airmen were killed in a cargo plane that crashed during a training run at an Air Force base, military authorities said Thursday. The crash sent a fireball hundreds of feet into the air, witnesses said.
Three of the men were in the Alaska Air National Guard and the fourth was on active duty at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Air Force Col. John McMullen said. Their names have not been released pending notification of relatives.
"We lost four members of our Arctic Warrior family and it's a loss felt across our entire joint installation," McMullen said in a statement, referring to Elmendorf and its adjacent Army base, Fort Richardson.
The C-17 was from the 3rd Wing, based at Elmendorf near downtown Anchorage. The crash happened about 6:14 p.m. during a training demonstration for an upcoming weekend air show, Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins said.
Anchorage Fire Dept. Captain Bryan Grella said his crew was just finishing dinner at about 6:30 p.m. at the downtown fire station when something caught his eye.
"It was a big, gray plume of smoke, and I saw a fireball go up in it," he said. The fireball extended about 750 feet in the air, he estimated.
The crash is the second in Anchorage this summer. In June, one child was killed and four others burned when a small plane crashed after taking off from the city's small-airplane airport downtown.
And days after the June plane crash, a small plane landed on a busy highway in Anchorage. There were no injuries.
Gov. Sean Parnell and Sen. Mark Begich issued statements late Wednesday expressing sadness over the crash and sending well-wishes to members of the military.
"Alaskans are very connected to the military, and our thoughts and prayers are with Alaska's Air Force family," Parnell said.